Education for everyone, not just the privileged

BOSTON - Education, an important apostolate with the framework of the Society of Jesus, "must ensure the development of the entire person and of all people," Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi told a Boston gathering of Jesuit educators from around the globe July 31.

Education must "look to the good of everyone and not just of the privileged, to exchange know-how and not concentrate it for the benefit of the few and the disadvantage of the many, who remain poorer not only in material goods but also in knowledge," he said.

"In a world in which 'knowledge is power,' we must remember the importance of 'knowing with' and of 'knowing for,'" said the priest, who is the Vatican's spokesman.

He was in Boston to address the inaugural International Colloquium on Jesuit Secondary Education, the first such gathering of secondary education leaders from across the globe in the 450-year history of the Jesuits.

The July 29 to Aug. 2 colloquium was being held on the campus of Boston College.

Speaking on the feast day of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, Father Lombardi said the order's mission, "faithful to its origins," has always been "defined as a 'service of faith.' However, over time, this service of faith has become enriched with new characteristics, and has been seen from perspectives which have enabled it to interact with new problems."

The mission of the Jesuits is part of the church's mission, Father Lombardi said, but he also emphasized that it is not the "exclusive property" of the Jesuits.

"If we contemplate the educational mission we have been discussing ... its importance and its beauty, then we find, I believe, that nothing therein is the exclusive property of the Jesuits, nothing cannot be shared and lived by others who feel the call," the priest said.

"Jesuits may be the animators and custodians of a certain spirit and a certain tradition, but this spirit and this tradition can be subsumed by others who can act with no less conviction and passion," he added.

Father Lombardi opened his speech by recounting an event from 2011 that he said gave great intensity to the words of St. Ignatius "when, at the beginning of our contemplation of the Incarnation during the spiritual exercises, he invites us to see how God looked at the earth and at what men do there and how things proceed there; then how (God) decided to send his Son to save mankind."

On May 21, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI's spoke with a group of 12 astronauts via a video hookup between the Vatican and the International Space Station in orbit around the earth.

Pope Benedict praised the space travelers for their courage and commitment and asked them how their unique perspective from the frontier of the universe made them think about difficult questions back on earth.

Their words, Father Lombardi said, included these responses: "We can look down and see our beautiful planet earth that God has made, and it is the most beautiful planet in the whole solar system. ... If we look up, we can see the rest of the universe, and the rest of the universe is out there for us to go explore. ... And the International Space Station is just one symbol, one example of what human beings can do when we work together constructively. ... When we do it together there is nothing we cannot accomplish."

Father Lombardi told his Boston audience: "How many terrible things happen among men on the earth! How fragile the earth is in man's hands! Yet also, how many wonderful things can happen on the earth! How many extraordinary things humanity can do if well guided! How high the spirit of man can soar!"

Organizers of the colloquium said its goals were to strengthen the global network of Jesuit schools by providing a venue to share ideas, discuss common strengths and challenges, examine Jesuit mission and identity, and focus on how Jesuit school educators can prepare students to become global leaders.

"The enormous challenges to Jesuit education today require our best efforts in order for us to serve the mission that has been entrusted to us," said Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolas, superior general.

"By gathering as a global body of Jesuit secondary schools for the first time we can begin to establish ways of collectively preparing our students and school communities to address the ... welfare of the entire world and its development in a sustainable and life-giving way," he said in a statement.

More than 370 educators from 61 countries on six continents registered for the event. Attendees represented schools from Australia, Congo, China, El Salvador, Italy, the United States and many other countries.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970